Most modern cars today don’t satisfy an average gearhead’s need for speed. Why? These days, the power and performance under the hood of your vehicle’s engine bay is limited. Not by any mechanical factor, but by the software running in the engine’s control unit (ECU) in particular. The ECU is engineered to satisfy a couple different markets. First and foremost, the government.
Now don’t get ahead of yourself and start dreaming up conspiracy theories about how Uncle Sam doesn’t want us to go fast. In this day and age, eco-friendly living has had renowned positive impact on the planet and has since become a major driving force behind the design of modern technology. As a result, there are rules car manufacturers are required to follow. You may recognize these regulations as emissions.
In addition to that, companies want to make sure their vehicles are well received by mass markets. While we all like to think that everyone loves cars, a majority of people only think of them as a hunk of metal with 4 tires to get them from A to B. Crazy, right? They have no idea on what they’re missing out on in life (mostly busted knuckles, thrown tools and yelling profanities while trying to replace something in a tight spot). When it comes to sales, the automotive industry is going to make the most money by appealing to the masses than to those of us that look forward to spending weekends in our garage.
As a result of these factors, on top of many others, new cars are rarely rolling off the production line optimized for ‘white-knuckle grip’ performance. So what do we do? We customize.
“Chipping,” “flashing,” “tuning,” there are many names for it but most of them support a common goal, more power. Depending on what your goals are, you have a couple options. If you’re not concerned about voiding a warranty and money isn’t too much of a concern, a full ECU tune from a qualified tuner at a performance shop may benefit you best. Ignition timing, air/fuel ratios, boost levels; you name it and they can change it to meet your goals.
On the other hand, the fact that your dealership will probably never touch your car again afterwards may be a legitimate concern. New cars aren’t cheap, especially if you favor the sporty coupe over the fuel-efficient SUV, and we are all too familiar with Murphy’s law. “If something can go wrong, it will go wrong,” and that’s why we all love factory warranties. Is there a compromise for gear heads that want to make their drive more enjoyable without taking the risk of cutting ties with their dealership? YES.
Our saving grace is in piggy-back chips. If you do your research, you’ll find many different types, brands and price ranges to these chips. Some are manufacturer specific, others are tailored to certain markets such as trucks or imported vehicles. One thing is for sure, if you drive a car that came equipped with a turbocharger or supercharger, the performance gains from Chipwerke have been eye-catching.
Manufactured in Germany, Chipwerke experienced immense success in Europe before ever reaching the United States. Once the car community got their hands on this gold, they couldn’t keep it to themselves. At first, popularity blossomed mainly in the German bloodline. Audi, BMW, Volkswagen and Mercedes were among the first to witness the gains that could be had from a simple chip that took less than 15 minutes to install. Now years later, you’ll see videos and pictures of installs on Subarus, Cadillacs and even the new turbocharged Honda Civic.
Now you’re wondering “how does this little box of warranty-keeping miracles work?” Allow me to explain.
While driving, your ECU is constantly communicating with the boost sensors under your car’s hood, reading incoming signals that tell it how much boost to put out (which influences the power your car makes). For example; let’s say when a stock car is at 3,000rpm, the boost sensor sends 3,000 millivolts (mV) to the ECU. The ECU calculates these 3,000mV into 10psi of boost pressure.
Chipwerke connects to the boost sensors in the engine bay with a provided wire harness and intercepts the signals being sent from the sensor to the ECU. It communicates to the ECU that it’s actually only receiving 2,000mV. The ECU will automatically adjust and add 1,000 more mV to compensate for the loss, thus increasing boost to 12psi. In addition to this minor raising of boost levels, the ECU will automatically recalculate the air/fuel ratios to accommodate the differences in power all while staying within the safety parameters that the car came with from the factory.
While it may seem like a lot is going on, all that’s happening is a signal being altered. It’s within this simplicity that keeps the vehicle from throwing any check-engine codes or “flagging” the ECU of a change, allowing your warranty to stay intact.
If you thought the benefits of this little box ended there, you couldn’t be more wrong. Each chip is customized for your vehicle’s specifications. The program being chosen varies on several factors such as the year, make and model, but also the type of fuel being used, the elevation the car is being driven in and if anything else on the car has been upgraded. Once you’ve been bitten by the car modifying bug, it can be hard to limit yourself, and the engineers behind Chipwerke took that into account when designing the software. If you decide to chase a little bit more power later with a bigger turbo or a smaller pulley for your supercharger, you can send in your Chipwerke to be upgraded to stage 2… for FREE. The upgraded stage allows the chip to perform more efficiently in unison with these other upgrades, thus putting out an even bigger increase in power.
In the words of the late, great Billy Mays, “But wait, there’s more!” When you buy a Chipwerke for your car, you’re not just a customer for the time you own that particular vehicle, you’re a customer for LIFE! If you decide to trade up and get a different turbocharged or supercharged car later, you can bring your chip with you. If you’re staying within your manufacturer’s car family, just send it back to be reprogrammed for the new vehicle’s specifications and you’re good to go! If you’re venturing out into a different manufacturer’s platform, the only thing you have to replace is the harness that connects the Chipwerke to the boost sensors, which is still leagues better than having to buy a whole new setup.
If I’ve piqued your curiosity at all, or if you have any additional questions regarding Chipwerke, how it works or if it has an application for your car, look no further. Our office is open for calls or chats via our website from 9am-5pm PST, or you can send us an email at your earliest convenience. Unleash the power of your engine with Chipwerke!
Jax has been a lover of all things automotive for over 10 years and has built multiple platforms of cars, trucks and motorcycles. Her stable currently consists of a 2011 Cadillac CTSV, 2012 Yamaha R6, and a 2012 Jeep Grand Cherokee SRT8.